Test Kitchen changes its menu weekly but staple dishes include Berkshire beef burgers, gin-cured salmon with marinated fennel and coconut curry with crispy shallots and coriander.
Where to pitch your food van
In Hollywood films, food vans seem to pitch up, tweet where they are and watch the crowd gather. The reality in the UK is that each council has strict regulations around trading on public land which often restricts where British food vans can trade.
“We envisaged being able to trade anywhere but the street trading licence isn’t suited to mobile vehicles - you get a permit for one location which defeats the point of being mobile and they charge you per location so it’s not suited for small businesses,” she explains.
“It was a shock because that’s what our business plan was based around - I knew which areas in Windsor would work. But it was going to be too much faff. Pretty quickly, we shifted to private events and residencies on private land, then all you need is your food hygiene and public liability insurance.”
Other than licences, the benefit of private events such as weddings or parties is greater certainty over customer numbers. “In our test year, we did events where the organiser tells you 5000 people will attend. You pay a pitch fee and then there’s one lonely punter that has no plans on buying anything at all. We don’t do those any more - our ingredients are really expensive because they’re really high quality.”
Buying local and seasonal
Test Kitchen designs its menu around seasonal produce. “John’s got a great connection with a local farm,” she says. “Our bestseller is a Super Bon Bon - it’s a really thick cut pork loin from the Royal farm heavily marinated in garlic and white wine and thyme, cooked on the grill, served with french fries, fried mushrooms, melted cheddar and fresh aioli - all in a toasted ciabatta.”